Totem Pole Cactus (Pachycereus Schottii Monstrosus)

The Totem Pole Cactus

Cacti are probably the most popular succulents we have around. Remember the days when cactus and succulent were used synonymously?

Thank God, we know better now.

We know cacti are part of the larger succulents group, and the two are not interchangeable. Succulents are diverse with a ton of individual plant types – and cacti are part of this diversity.

Further on, the cacti have a diverse background. There are so many cacti species. Any three you know of?

Well, here’s the fourth one: the totem pole cactus.

Have you seen it? Heard about it, maybe? Or this is your first time?

Whatever the case, you’ll have more than a handful of information about this yet another wonder from the succulent kingdom. Read on.

Totem Pole Cactus

Lophocereus schotii var. monstrosus is the name the totem pole cactus goes by in the botanical world. It is yet another beauty that goes against the usual spiny – and sometimes dangerous – nature of most cacti.

Its entire height, which can be as high as 12 ft (3.65 meters), is covered by a series of tiny spineless bumps – a characteristic brought about by mutation. But if it grows to maturity, you’re bound to see traces of its past spiky glory.

At full height, it bears sharp grey spikes at the stem tips.

Native to the Mexican state of Baja California, the totem pole cactus is green and flowers only occasionally. The blooms are pink and open during the night – so probably you’ll never see them. They come out in summer.

Totem Pole Cactus care

This cactus is pretty easy to nurture. It’s a set-and-nearly-forget type of plant.

As long you have a few pieces of the puzzle in place, you’ll have your plant for as long you wish—the most important details to pay attention to include watering, potting mix, and lighting.

Very paramount also is your area’s USDA hardiness. This will determine whether you’ll grow your totem pole cactus as an outdoor plant or an indoor one.

Have a closer look at each one of these below.

Ideal Climate – Outdoor or Indoor Growth?

The totem pole cactus is ideal for both outdoor and indoor growth. But there’s no denying – it’s such a darling with outdoor growth. This could be attributed to its rather imposing physique.

The bad news is that not every area will be suitable for growing this beauty piece outside, not all year round.

Places that experience a warm climate can accommodate the totem pole cactus in the open quite nicely. And that is throughout the whole year. In terms of hardiness zones, we’re talking of areas with values from 9 to 11.

For cooler parts, you can still grow your plant outdoors. But it should be in a container so that you bring it inside as the cold months approach.

Lighting for the Totem Pole Cactus

The totem pole cactus cherishes the sun so much. That means you should make sure it’s getting as much of it as possible – not a few hours, we’re talking a full day here.

This is relatively simple if you’re growing this succulent in a garden – assuming your climate is ideal for such. All you need is a clear spot devoid of any shade.

For indoors, place your plant near the window receiving the most hours of sunlight throughout the day.

Anything partial and your plant won’t have impressive growth.

Totem Pole Cactus Watering Requirements

This is a drought-tolerant plant. A few prolonged periods of not quenching it isn’t much of a bother.

Nevertheless, you still need to be watering your baby – and your frequency will depend on whether you’re raising it in a container or out there in the garden.

Indoors, it’s best to wait at least two weeks between watering and a week when the plant is outdoors, in the ground. These are the rough timelines during which the soil would have dried up.

If you can’t keep with counting the days (it’s only natural), then simply checking whether the top part of the soil is dry or not will do just fine. You want to make sure that the soil has completely dried out before heading for your watering can.

The frequency will also be influenced by seasons. You’ll need to water your plant often during, say, a heatwave and much less when the temperatures tumble. The trick is to keep an eye on the topsoil.

Soil Requirements

The above watering requirements will only make sense if you have the right soil in place for your totem pole cactus.

As it is the norm with succulents, make sure the soil you put your plant in is well-draining. It just ensures your plant is getting water conditions it’s used to in the wild. And that’s how you end up with a genuinely ornamental possession.

Totem Pole Cactus Propagation

Getting new totem babies is possible through stem cuttings. And the whole process is a piece of cake.

Here’s a cheat sheet for going about it:-

  • Identify a stem with a few healthy bumps and cut it off, a few inches from the tip, using a sharp, sterilized knife. Make sure your cut is at an angle to prevent water accumulation on the parent plant.
  • Treat the wounds on both the remaining stem and the cutting using scouring powder to avoid infections. This is optional, but it’s always good to be proactive.
  • Store your cutting away from direct sunlight, giving it just enough time for the cut part to callus. This takes a few weeks.
  • Now it’s time to stick your cutting in a well-draining mix.
  • Give your cutting a few days before you start watering. Follow the watering routine outlined above and keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • The roots will form between 2 to 6 weeks, and you’ll have a new plant to look out for. At this point, you can start to gradually increase the exposure to sunlight and follow the above caring tips.

Pests and Problems

The totem pole cactus is one of those succulents that truly define hardy.

Sure, it can go for long periods without – like all succulents. But what sets it apart is its resistance to pests and diseases. So you shouldn’t worry at all on those fronts.

What you want to keep tabs on are your watering and the soil mix. Root rot is still a significant nightmare here. Refer to the caring requirements above.

Next Step – Buying a Totem Pole Cactus

There is no shortage of places when it comes to buying a totem pole cactus. The most no-brainer options are Amazon and Etsy.

Aside from these e-com giants, there are many enough options that are even better since their sole focus is on succulents. Check out the full list in this post.

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